Friday, 27 March 2015

The Priests' letter and the Cardinal revisited

Thinking further about the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster's response to the letter signed (in support of marriage and the family) by around 490 priests, I believe I understand the Cardinal's concern. Pope Francis is emphasising mercy, and rightly so. I think this has unsettled many in the Church because they don't understand what this means in practice - some believe that doctrines are going to be changed. I don't believe this, and never have. There is, to be sure, a balance needed here; we must uphold and teach the Truth, positively and confidently (which means not apologising for it) and we must also show compassion towards those who find themselves in situations which prevent them from receiving Holy Communion as well as those who are struggling through painful difficulties in their relationships at this time. In this I see no real difference between the approach of Pope Francis and that of Pope St. John Paul II (except the difference of personal style).

Against this background I think I can understand the Cardinal's dismay at that letter. I believe the Cardinal is a very caring and sincere man. I have met him on two occasions, once when he was a young priest, many years ago, when I was greatly impressed by him, and once when he was visiting a conference for exorcists as Archbishop of Westminster. I was equally impressed then. I believe he is concerned about many people who are suffering and would like to present the face of a caring, compassionate Church. This, I believe, is why he reacted as he did to that letter.

I am not at odds with either the Cardinal or my own bishop, but I do believe I was right to sign that letter. The Pope asked for a frank exchange of views, and we should not be afraid of expressing them. Those who know me will not need any assurance that I wish to show compassion and mercy to those in difficult situations with regard to the Church. Reading the statement in that letter again, I have to say that another sentence expressing our compassion might have helped, but we also have to be confident that speaking the truth is NOT against compassion or mercy, in fact to be truly merciful, truth is required, spoken in love for sure, but still spoken, and spoken clearly. For me there is no conflict between truth and mercy. If there are problems here at all, they have to do with our own human weakness and the question of how we put the message across. This is where personal "style" comes in, and this is where Pope Francis is, in my opinion, leading the way. I cannot say I am entirely happy with every apparent sound-bite that seems to come from the Holy Father, but I agree wholeheartedly with his emphasis on mercy. We need prayer, calmness and a sense of balance.


  1. I was both shocked dismayed by the cardinal's response. Is he really castigating priests who simply uphold the teaching of Christ? I personally know at least three of the priests and they are good, humble and holy men. Not one of them would I describe as "political".
    Thank you, Father, for signing.

  2. However father,thank you for signing the letter.

  3. Fr Abberton. Your signature was conspicuous at the top of the list. Unfortunately, commentary on this sort of action is taken up by what we have agreed is a "lunatic fringe" on the Catholic blogosphere. This can lead to persons being blacklisted, even banned from speaking, injustice you have experienced in your association with the mystical tradition. Because I have followed your blog I understand your sincere motivation. However, some other names are not so impressive and I am saddened that you are listed with them but no harm done. The Synod will sort it out - hopefully.

  4. Is it possible to have a link to this letter please?

  5. The Cardinal added more at the Chrism Mass. He wants to avoid a 'them and us' situation and hopes the Holy Spirit can guide us to a conclusion which unites the church and not fractures it.

  6. Reasons to Believe in Jesus

    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

    Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer


    David Roemer

  7. I do hope this has not stopped you commenting on this site. That would be a great shame.

  8. Luke 1:
    "50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
    51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
    52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
    53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty."
    Pope Francis does nothing but obey The Bible so he is right
    Priests (and laymen) can disagree with a Bishop and if they do so they must present him their disagreement (Canon of Apostles - 45)
    The priests are also right in their action.
    No defilement has been done against the Church.
    So rejoice and leave dark fears behind! :-)